Last updated on: 1/24/2017 | Author:

Should US Customs and Border Enforcement Use Military Equipment to Help Prevent Illegal Immigration?

PRO (yes)


Michael McCaul, JD, US Representative (R-TX), in a May 14, 2015 House session considering amendments to HR 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, available at, stated:

“[A]s we draw down our military presence in Afghanistan, equipment used successfully in combat can be used to enhance border security at home and, in the process, save taxpayer dollars.

Today, five aerostats [light aircraft] used to protect forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan are now providing situational awareness in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Their use has helped agents apprehend dangerous aliens and interdict drugs that are en route to our neighborhoods.”

May 14, 2015


Martha McSally, MPP, US Representative (R-AZ), in a May 14, 2015 House session considering amendments to HR 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, available at, stated:

“The technology used by the DOD [Department of Defense] in Afghanistan was transferred to CBP. When deployed, VADER [Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar] will allow operators to track ground movement with great detail and make this information available to ground commanders in real time, often in tough terrain, allowing them to be more efficient with their resources. The sensors are capable of detecting even subtle human movement along the ground and increase their aerial surveillance, enforcement, and security to prevent potential threats from transnational criminal organizations illegally entering the United States. These organizations are trafficking drugs, money, people, and weapons through the border and into our communities.

…[S]ince 2012 VADER has detected over 33,000 people moving across the southwest border. Since 2006 this versatile platform has been credited with interdicting and disrupting over 6 tons of cocaine and 250,000 pounds of marijuana. CBP has also benefited from aerostats and helicopters which allowed CBP to have greater visibility of this illicit activity on the border.”

May 14, 2015


George W. Bush, MBA, President of the United States, stated the following in a May 18, 2006 speech at the Yuma, Arizona Sector Border Patrol Headquarters:

“[T]he need to enforce the border is urgent, and that’s why, in coordination with our governors, we’re going to send 6,000 National Guard troops to be deployed on the southern border.

Now, the reason why I think this strategy is important is because deploying the 6,000 troops to complement the work of the Border Patrol will get immediate results. And it’s time to get immediate results…

The Guard is going to support border control efforts. And the Border Patrol, of course, will be in the lead. The Guard will operate surveillance and communications systems. They will install fences and vehicle barriers. They’re going to help build patrol roads. They’ll analyze intelligence. They will help spot people. But the Border Patrol will be involved in direct law enforcement. The Guard is going to free up agents to be in direct contact with those trying to sneak across. It is — the Guard is complementary. The Guard makes it easier for the Border Patrol to do its job.”

May 18, 2006


David J. Stoddard, former US Border Patrol Agent, stated in a Feb. 22, 2002 testimony submitted to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources:

“The U.S. Border Patrol simply cannot handle its mission under present restraints. Its job is to protect the American public and preserve the sanctity of our international borders. That cannot be accomplished while our borders are over run by aliens of every nationality and while bureaucrats place unreasonable restrictions on how agents operate.

I urge the immediate deployment of U.S. military troops and equipment on our borders to seal them against those who would cause us harm. This could be only a temporary measure to allow us to regain control to again become a sovereign nation.”

Feb. 22, 2002

CON (no)


Hannah Graf Evans, Domestic Policy Associate, and Maggie O’Donnell, Program Assistant in Militarism and Civil Liberties, both at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, in a Jan. 21, 2015 article, “The Border Security Myth,” available at, stated:

“[T]he rising militarization has not effectively curbed undocumented immigration. Instead, it had the opposite effect – the accelerated rise in militarized enforcement came with an increase in the number of undocumented workers and a decrease in apprehensions.”

Jan. 21, 2015


No More Deaths / No Más Muertes, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, in a 2012 Issues and Themes publication titled “Border Militarization,” available at the No More Deaths website, stated:

“Begun in 1993 and extended to the entire southwest border by 1997, the policy of massive concentration of enforcement resources along the border has transformed the southwest borderlands into a perilous militarized zone and had cataclysmic consequences for migrants and border communities. This militarized enforcement strategy, dubbed ‘prevention-through-deterrence’ by Border Patrol, was conceived to intentionally force undocumented migrants away from urban areas to attempt crossings in more remote and dangerous terrain. Intended to increase the cost and risk associated with crossing the border without authorization, the policy has done just that, resulting in the deaths of many thousands since its implementation…

Today, over 18,500 Border Patrol agents roam the southwest border, employing a vast array of advanced technology including all manner of electronic surveillance equipment, unattended ground sensors, Predator drone aircraft, and Blackhawk helicopters. The borderlands now resemble a war zone more closely than at any point in history. Although fewer people appear to be crossing the border in recent years, a higher percentage of people perish along the way, suggesting that the border is now more dangerous than ever.”



Beto O’Rourke, US Representative (D-TX), in a May 14, 2015 House session considering amendments to HR 1735, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 available at, stated:

“[Military equipment] is not needed on the border right now. I will give you some examples. The city that I have the honor of representing, El Paso, Texas, the largest city on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, is the safest city today in the United States, and it was also the safest city in the United States at the time when Ciudad Juarez across the river was the most dangerous city in the world.

Today, we have record low apprehensions on our southern border. We are spending record amounts–$18 billion a year–to secure it. We have doubled the size of the Border Patrol from 10,000 to 20,000 in the last 10 years, and we have hundreds of miles of walls.

We have also heard from the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Director of the FBI that there is not now, nor has there ever been, a credible terrorist threat on our southern border. So we do not need mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. We do not need grenade launchers. We do not need armed drones.

Mr. Chairman, we do not need to militarize the border.”

May 14, 2015


The American Friends Service Committee, in a brief issue description titled “U.S.-Mexico Border Militarization,” accessed on Nov. 29, 2016, available at, stated:

“The U.S.-Mexico border stands to become one of the world’s most militarized borders, even though the two countries are not at war. Massive increases in appropriations for border security have served only to decrease real security in the U.S., disrupting the quality of life and economies of border communities and eroding human rights in the region. Since the 1993 establishment of border control policies, at least 7,000 immigrants have lost their lives crossing the border.”

Nov. 29, 2016